Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spurned Lovers, Gambling Fees, & a Shooting by @JacquieRogers #western

February in the Old West

In the mountains of Owyhee County, Idaho Territory, the towns were still snowed in during and there was an epidemic of cabin fever.  Some years, the roads were passable by horse and sleigh.  Yes, they had snowshoes for horses.

Still, February was a good time to get some business out of the way. The February 11, 1871 issue of The Owyhee Avalanche reported a meeting where county commissioners set license fees for various activities:
PROPRIETORS of Faro, Monte, Roulette, Shuffle Board, or any other banking game, at cards, dice, or other device, shal pay for each game so kept a license fee of $50 per quarter.  No license can be obtained for French Monte, or the Thimble game, popularly known as the "little joker."
In the same meeting, the newspaper reported a toll on the road from Boonville to the Carson Ranch:
A loaded wagon with two animals $1.50; Each additional span or yoke, 50 cts.; Each buggy with one animal, 50 cts.; Each buggy with two animals, 75 cts.; Each pack animal, 12 1/2 cts.; Each horseman, 25 cts.; Each loose animal, other than sheep, goats, or swine, 10 cts.; Each sheep, goat, swine, 5 cts.; Each empty wagon, with team, half price.
You'd think being an editor of a newspaper was fairly straightforward, but according to the editor at The Owyhee Avalanche, a variety of talents are required.  In the February 18, 1871 issue, the editor reports (notice #7 is missing):
A MODEL EDITOR. The following requisites; according to an exchange, constitute a model editor:
   1st. He must be able to fight his weight in wild cats and come out without a single scratch.
   2d. He must be able to drink with every man who asks him, and never "fall in the action."
   3d. He must go armed with at least two pistols and a bowie knife, and never go off half-cocked.
   4th. He must entertain and express such views on all subjects, as will suit the views and tastes of all his readers. It matters not what their views on the subject may be.
   5th. He must know exactly how to construct his articles so as to please everybody, and offend no one.
   6th. He must know how to lie fluently, and when he tells a lie, to stick to it with becoming dignity.
   8th. He must write temperance articles for temperance men, and at the same time advocate the cause of saloon keepers.
   9th. And lastly, he must be all things to all men, and a devil of a fellow generally.
Silver City, I.T., had a large Chinese population, as did most mining towns in the West, and of course they celebrated their holidays with enthusiasm.
CHINESE NEW YEAR.  Last evening our celestial fellow citizens were all dressed in their Sunday-going-to-meeting costumes and inaugurated the festivities of their New Year by partaking of a sumptuous feast at headquarters on Jordan Street.  To-morrow the Temple or Joss House will be decked in paraphernalia of the Orient and will be a sight worth looking at by "outside barbarians."
Apparently the editor had a soft spot in his heart.  In a previous issue, he published pictures of eligible young ladies.  Here's a letter to the editor in the February 10, 1872 issue:
Mr. Editor: Will you please inform us in your next issue what would be the probable cost of 1,000 copies of the AVALANCHE of Feb. 3rd, as many of your subscribers would be glad to see one of that date.  Upon investigation it appears that the city circulation of that date, by some means or other, became the property of a few of our good looking prospective husbands and fathers, who immediately sent them (AVALANCHE) elsewhere.  To such an extent was the outgoing mail swelled on the following morning, that Postmaster King was obligated to procure an extra number of sacks, and AVALANCHE stock advanced beyond the reach of many of our most respectable citizens.  One individual offered five dollars in coin and a pair of thirty-dollar boots for a single copy, but could not procure it even at these alarming figures.
While on the East Coast, the situation was a little different, and women were getting downright demanding.  This was printed in the February 25, 1871 issue of The Owyhee Avalanche:
A WARNING TO HUSBANDS. A female writer in the New York Revolution says that the great want of women at present is money; money for their personal wants, and money to carry out their plans.  She proposes that they shall earn it, that they shall consider it as honorable to work for money as for board, and demands for them equal pay for equal work.  She demands that the bearing of and rearing of children, the most exacting of employments, and involving the most terrible of risks, shall be the best paid work in the world, and husbands shall treat their wives with a t least as much consideration, and acknowledge them entitled to as much money as nurses.  The meaning of this is, that wives are about to strike for greenbacks; so much for every baby born.  No greenbacks, no more sons and daughters.  No greenbacks, no more population, no more box to carry on the great enterprises of the age.  The scale of prices for maternal duties are as follows:
   Girl babies $100; boy babies $200; Twin babies $300; Twins both boys $400; Triplets $600; Triplets all boys $1,000.
   Terms: C.O.D.  No credit beyond first child, the motto being "Pay up."  Husbands who desire to transmit their names to posterity will please take notice."
There's nothing like a spurned lover to kick up a fuss, and that's just what happened in Silver City 142 years ago.  This article appeared in the February 4, 1871 issue of The Owyhee Avalanche:
ATTEMPTED INCENDIARISM.  A few evenings ago a certain young man attempted to burn the dwelling of a prominent citizen in town.  From what we can learn, it appears that the cause of this rash attempt was unrequited love.  It seems that the would be incendiary had fallen in love with a daughter of the proprietor of the house, "popped the question," and was refused; whereupon he conceived the idea of getting even by reducing the premises to ashes.  Fortunately he failed in this base design and fled.  Officers of justice are now on his track.
Boys will be boys, and when you get a bunch them on a mountain digging for gold and silver, an occasional altercation will take place, which is what was reported in the issue of February 17, 1872:
SHOOTING SCRAPE.  Two miners named Crawford and Dowry, had a row at the Skookum boarding house night before last, resulting in the latter being shot by the former.  The bullet passed through the upper portion of the right side of the abdomen, penetrated the right arm on the inside above the elbow and lodged under the skin on the outside.  It is a flesh wound and is not considered dangerous.  Dowry was brought down to the War Eagle Hotel, where Dr. Beckett extracted the bullet yesterday.  Crawford delivered himself up to Sheriff Stevens, but up to the time of going to press, no complaint had been made against him, and no examination made.
Other news that week:
   Dr. Colmache intends paying Boise City a visit next week.
   The heart of John Cable was made glad yesterday by the arrival of his wife and two babies from San Francisco.
   A woman writes to a literary weekly that the ladies are doing all they can to bring heaven down to earth.  We had thought they would be content with "raising hell."
   Jerry Phillip will pay a liberal reward to any one who will return safe and sound his gray-brindle Thomas Grimalkin, supposed to have eloped with some feline wench on or about St. Valentine's Day.
February Events
  • February 23, 1836: The battle at the Alamo began.
  • February 19, 1856: Hamilton Lamphere Smith was granted a patent for the tin-type camera.
  • February 4, 1858: Gold is discovered in the Fraser River, beginning a gold rush near what is now Langley, British Columbia.
  • February 1, 1859: The Eldorado Hotel opens in Denver, Colorado Territory.
  • February 2, 1862: The first article by Samuel Clements using his pen name Mark Twain was published by the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise.
  • February 13, 1866: In Liberty, Missouri, the James and Younger brothers hold up a bank for the first time, stealing $60,000.
  • February 15, 1870: The first woman justice of the peace, Esther Morris, was sworn in at South Pass, Wyoming.
  • February 18, 1875: The Hoodoos, a vigilante group, lynched two cattle rustlers in Mason County, Texas.
  • February 16, 1878: The silver dollar is declared legal tender.
  • February 17, 1878: Bands of Cheyenne attack cattle camps near Fort Dodge, Kansas.  Several cowhands were killed.
  • February 11, 1880: A church opens in Wickes, Montana. Why is this significant?  Because Wickes didn't have any saloons.  It's the first town in M.T. to have a church before getting a saloon.
  • February 25, 1881:  Luke Short kills Charlie Storm in a street fight in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.

May your saddle never slip.

Jacquie Rogers
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Hearts of Owyhee series
#1: Much Ado About Marshals
#2: Much Ado About Madams
#3: Much Ado About Mavericks


  1. Delightful! Thanks.

  2. I would have edited that comment... anyway, I had no idea horses had snowshoes!! and I LOVE the qualifications of an EDITOR. LOLOL!! Sounds like your next hero!

    Thanks for a "cabin fever" post.

  3. I love this stuff! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  4. Thanks, Jacquie. Since news traveled faster by word of mouth in a small community, a news writer had to put a real spin on it to make it worth buying in print. The style of news writing put plenty of personality (slant) into its reporting and is comparable to the political pundits with radio and TV shows today. I was struck by the detailed description of the gunshot wound.

  5. I laughed my way through many of these, like the qualifications of an editor and the strike of the wives for payment from their husbands. LOL
    Great article, Jacquie.

  6. Jacquie, I love these posts of yours. So informative and interesting, and I always get to laugh while I'm learning something new. I have been out of pocket most of the day, but couldn't let the day get by completely without saying thank you for a very interesting post, once again!

  7. Frank, thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll find these snippets helpful, and yes, I do have a lot of fun mining for them.

  8. Meg, I saw a picture of snowshoes for horses but can't find it anywhere now. I haven't seen any in real life--just read about them.

  9. Troy, it's a pleasure. I love reading old newspapers but for the style and content. Very entertaining. I'm not sure if that puts me in the geek category or not. LOL.

  10. Ron, I think you're right. Actually, I had a scene where the heroine was fired, and the people in the boarding house knew about it before she got home. Not a single one of my critique partners bought it--said it was completely implausible. But anyone who's lived in a small town knows that it happens all the time. I did change the scene, though.

  11. Sarah, the payment for having babies didn't seem to take hold. According to this, I'm owed $400. Don't think I'll be getting it anytime soon.

  12. Cheryl, the reason I love old newspapers so much is because the daily life is never reported in the history books. We had dinner last night with a man whose brother owns a house (used to be the post office) in Silver City and he didn't know they had an ice rink there. We learn about the battles and all that, but not how people actually lived and what they were thinking about. To me, that's real history.

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